On Fridays I read USA Today. It’s informative, and gives a different perspective on news, sports, life, entertainment and money. Managing Your Money (USA Today 12.7.07) offers sane advice for the Christmas season.
“Controlling pre-holiday spending to dodge post holiday blues” is the theme I’ll address today. Extravagant spending, that is, budget breakers, will inevitably come back to haunt the spender. Purchases that looks good in those days leading up to Christmas can precipitate stress after the emotion of the season is pass and one returns to reality. A stack of bills is devastating to morale and defeats long term plans for financial security.
How are we to get a grip on and control our urge to spend, which forfeits our future? One sane way to influence our expenditures is through the power of suggestion. Our suggestions to ourselves. Sit down, close your eyes, and imagine picking up the mail to find a dozen bills demanding payment. A handful of such “downs” have a sobering effect on the way we plan our holiday spending.
By all means realize it is the season to be supportive and generous. There are charities and families that receive renewed motivation for doing good with a little money to help move them forward.
One business leader, Dion Williams, maintains a philosophy of intently examining the family holiday budget. He says “my wife and i go over every single person we are buying for — including adopting a family for charity — and we decide how much to spend.”
This CEO gives us valuable insights for managing spending. The first is attention to charitable giving. There are needy families that would have a much merrier Christmas with a small donation to help them along. Our Salvation Army can assist in our efforts to be generous in giving to families. I also believe that that our budget for the holidays should include those who provide valuable services to us throughout the year. For example, it is our practice to give a cash gift or check to the one who picks up our trash weekly. Let’s also imitate my neighbor who last year included a gift to her mail carrier. Our veterinarian and family doctors merit a place on our gift list. For these, I avoid things like baked goods and believe a gift card is more functional.
Many of us have been taught it is better to give than to receive. Christmas is the appropriate time to brighten the lives of those who contribute to the quality of our lives.
In managing money, the following sage advice is given on doing good and yet not suffering a hangover from Christmas giving:
- Never ship anything when rushed…
- Do online research first…
- Take frequent breaks to take stock…
- Count everything you are spending…
- Set a budget…
- Careful budgeting will produce a merrier Christmas and a much better post-holiday season.
- Sensible use of credit cards opens us to further good feelings after the holidays. As rational individuals we can chose not to run into debt and create trouble for ourselves. Using a tax refund in April to pay off delinquent accounts from the holidays can cause extreme stress.
Rev. John Wesby was a wise financial planner as well as a church founder and leader. Regarding finances. He said:
“Make all you can, save all you can. Be wise, compassionate and generous in holiday spending.” The wisdom comes in knowing your financial abilities and limitations.